Would you like your basil plant to look like this?

A lot of your basil growing success is in the pruning. In this article we’ll reveal how to correctly harvest your basil so the plant keeps getting bigger and bigger. And after that, we’ll reveal how this huge basil plant was grown.

Have you ever bought a beautiful little basil seedling from your local nursery, only to have it quickly turn scraggly, tall, woody, and sparse?

For many years we struggled with the same issue.

We’d try time and time again to grow basil, excited to add it to our soups, salads, and Italian dishes, only to have it fail over and over again. 

It wasn’t until I received one simple tip from a friend that I was suddenly able to grow big, bushy, beautiful basil plants. 

It turns out, the way you prune the basil has everything to do with your success in growing it. 

Why it matters how you prune basil

You may think, it’s just a plant, why does it matter how I pick off leaves?

When it comes to pruning basil the leaves you choose to remove matter for the health of the plant and for your continued enjoyment of fresh basil all season long.

For the plant to remain healthy, grow vigorously, and provide you with plenty of basil this season, it’s important to learn how to prune it correctly.

The wrong way to prune basil

Prune your basil wrong and it will end up looking like this.

When learning how to correctly prune basil, it’s important to first know the wrong way to go about pruning.

Most people are tempted to pick off the biggest leaves of the plant, those growing on the bottom branches.

The biggest leaves on the bottom branches are the powerhouses of the whole plant. Those big leaves take in the most sunlight and make sure the basil plant is getting adequate nutrients. Pruning them off significantly hurts the plant. 

Not only does removing those bottom leaves hurt the plant, it doesn’t help the plant create new leaves and branches. 

The correct way to prune basil

Now that you know the wrong way to prune basil, let’s go over the correct way to pick off basil leaves. 

The leaves that you should remove are those growing on the top of the plant.

Yes, they’re smaller and won’t make nearly as much Caprese salad as those big leaves on the bottom, but there’s a good reason to pick off the leaves from the top of the plant.

Every time you prune the leaves from the top of the basil plant, it allows the plant to create two new branches from the spot that you picked.

Those two new branches will create new sets of leaves, and when you prune them again, they’ll create two new branches again.

Pruning this way allows the plant to grow outward instead of only upward. It will grow exponentially bigger every time you prune the plant. 

Alternatively, if you were pruning the plant the wrong way, it would continue to grow leaves from the one central branch, but would eventually turn woody, skimpy, sparse, and ultimately die. 

3 Steps to Prune Basil Correctly

1. Identify

Identify the spot on the branch where you can clearly see new tiny leaves forming.

2. Cut

Cut the branch just above those tiny leaves, making sure not to disturb the leaves themselves. Use some herb pruning shears to ensure a clean cut.

3. Repeat

Repeat this process with all branches that have tiny leaves growing.

In a few weeks you’ll see that those tiny leaves turned into new branches, and you can again prune the new branches just above new sets of leaves so those will branch out again.

And there you have it, the secret to growing big bushy basil plants!

Now you know how to grow big bushy basil plants, why not grow more of them for free? It’s really easy to propagate basil cuttings to grow brand new plants.